In the News

In the News 2020

Edison now required to provide advance public notice of radiation releases

In a remarkable turn of events, SONGS is now the only nuclear power plant in the world that provides a 48 hour public warning before it performs an ocean dump of low-level radioactive waste. Since the end of May, they have done 6, almost one per week.  The warnings come on Wednesdays and the dumps are on Friday. The latest one: Friday, July 31, 2020.  Go to this link to see the notice.  For background and commentary on these releases click here. What can you do about this? Click here to open a printable warning sign. Print a bunch and post them all over town!

Petition for funding the National Academy of Sciences study of cancer streaks near NPP

This petition has been a huge success. Over 1100 have signed on with an appeal to Representatives Levin, Porter, Rouda, and Carbajal to seek funding for cancer research to be conducted in the 50km area around San Onofre.  Here is a link to the petition.:

Perspectives on the anniversary of Hiroshima

To honor the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima, join a webinar on Radiation and Women’s Health. Live from London, 8 AM PST on August 1. Since women are much more vulnerable to radiation than men, and since cancer is the number one killer in California and the rest of the nation, you might want to listen in. The keynote speakers are Cindy Folkers and Mary Olson from Beyond Nuclear.  Register here.

Then read about what really happened in New Mexico 75 years ago when they exploded the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Test Site. After decades of coverup, we finally learn how the downwinders suffered from plumes of radiation and many got cancer. It was only a small 13.6 pound plutonium pit that led to a 40,000 ft. mushroom cloud, almost nothing compared to the 1,773 TONS of uranium and plutonium at our very own San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump. What happened at Trinity is an eyeopener and sadly it may be a prelude to what could happen here.

Now go back in history to 1995 and the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima and the birth of the nuclear age. Yours truly wrote an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times on August 4, 1995.  There is no newspaper link to something this old so here is the text if you are interested :

A version of this Op-Ed appeared in the Los Angeles Times Friday August 4, 1995, the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima.

Targeting of Civilians Is Now the Ugly Norm

Mass bombing was made possible by technology, which

     still   dictates policies of callous disregard for life.

By ROGER JOHNSON

Blood and destruction shall be so in use,

And dreadful objects so familiar

That mothers shall but smile when they behold

Their infants quartered with the hands of war.

“Julius Caesar,” Act 3,  William Shakespeare

           The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City brought out the suffering that can be caused by a single bomb detonated in the middle of a city.  Magnify the Oklahoma City devastation by 25,000 times and you have the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb.  Imagine a freight train 300 miles long loaded with Oklahoma City bombs.  That’s the equivalent of one modern nuclear warhead, just one of tens of thousands poised all over the world.

           The policy of destroying cities with bombs deserves some reflection as we mark the 50th anniversary of the most destructive bombing that the world has ever known.  The firebomb raids on Dresden in February, 1945 and on Tokyo the following month killed at least as many as the atomic bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  From May to August, 1945, the United States dropped 158,000 tons of bombs on Japan, roughly the equivalent of 300,000 Oklahoma City explosions.

           The deliberate killing of civilians is a relatively new practice in the conduct of war.  World War II was the first major war in which the majority of the victims were civilians.  Today, civilian casualties vastly outnumber military deaths in Bosnia, as they did in Chechnya.  Paradoxically, as the efficiency of killing civilians has increased, the moral outrage as decreased.

           There is a long and mostly forgotten history of the problem that the Pentagon euphemistically calls “collateral damage”.  In the 4th Century, St. Augustine wrote in “The City of God” that peace may require violence against evildoers, but warriors should kill only with anguish and regret.  This “just war” doctrine became elaborated over the ages in the Christian world, but it always held that the deliberate killing of civilian noncombatants must be forbidden.  Today, the targeting of civilians is routine.  How did this dramatic change in morality come about?

           Indiscriminate killing was greatly advanced when airplanes became weapons of war. The first use of airplanes to deliberately kill civilians took place right here in the U.S. in June of 1921 during the infamous race riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  White racists commandeered U.S. postal service planes and dropped turpentine bombs on black churches and residential neighborhoods.  The firebombing resulted in widespread death and destruction.

           On April 26, 1936, Nazi planes flew over Guernica, Spain and dropped primitive explosives on residential areas.  This act drew immediate public outrage all over the world and inspired the painting that has become a classic anti-war statement: Picasso’s monumental “Guernica.”  The following year, Italian pilots did the same thing to Barcelona.  There was widespread sentiment at the time that pilots who kill innocent civilians should be tried as war criminals.

           On Nov. 14, 1940 the Luftwaffe bombed Coventry, England, killing 554, mostly civilians. The Germans coined the word Coventrisieren  (to raze to the ground) to describe the tactic.  Outraged, the Royal Air Force retaliated a month later by destroying the city of Mannheim.  And so it began.

           The master of such planning was Arthur Harris, commander of the Royal Bomber Command.  In July, l943, he monitored the weather patterns over Hamburg until they were just right for creating a firestorm.  When conditions were optimal, his bombers dropped thousands of 4-pound phosphorous firebombs designed to set roofs on fire.  As planned, a catastrophic firestorm of hurricane proportions engulfed the city and killed at least 30,000. Twenty per cent of the victims were children.

           As the war in Europe was drawing to a close, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled from the Russians toward the undefended German city of Dresden.  This historic and cultural treasure was of little military significance and one of the few German cities unscathed by war.  The British and Americans, concerned about Stalin’s postwar ambitions, decided to impress him with a show of military ruthlessness.

           On the night of Feb. 13, 1945, the RAF dispatched a wave of 245 bombers that carpet bombed the medieval city with hundreds of thousands of incendiary fire sticks.  A few hours later, a second wave of 550 bombers was sent in to magnify the blaze.  The next day the city was attacked a third time by 450 B-17 Flying Fortresses from the U.S. 8th Air Force.

           Official estimates of casualties have ranged from 30,000 to 250,000.  Some military analysts called Dresden one of the major atrocities of the war.  Others shrugged it off and argued that civilians could no longer be immune in airborne war.  As one American navigator who took part recalled, “It was just a normal type of raid.” After the war, RAF General Harris was knighted and became Sir Arthur Harris. In 1992, the British erected a monument in London to honor his achievements.  But many now remember him by his other name: “Butcher Harris.”

           In spite of the terrible destruction in Europe, the technique of saturation bombing was still in its infancy.  With the larger and faster B-29 Stratofortresses deployed over Japan, the U.S. Air Force turned carpet bombing and firebombing into a science.  In the closing months of the war, 75% of the munitions dropped on Japan were incendiary bombs, designed primarily to ignite wooden homes.  The firebombing of Tokyo in March, 1945 killed 100,000 people, destroyed 267,171 structures and left 1 million homeless.

            The killing of civilians by the hundreds of thousands was now commonplace, and this made the decision to drop the atomic bomb even easier. Accounts of the atomic bombings usually show the pretty mushroom cloud from above rather than the incinerated city below littered with corpses. The U.S. has always been eager to justify and minimize this historic and barbaric event, the only time in history that atomic weapons have been used in war.

           Gen. Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, trivialized the suffering by telling the U.S. Senate in 1945 that high-dose radiation exposure is “without undue suffering” and “a very pleasant way to die.”  After the bombing, the U.S. was quick to assert that the A-bomb ended the war and prevented countless future casualties by making an invasion of Japan unnecessary.  While this cover story is still believed by many, most scholars have concluded that the war was already over and the A-bomb was totally unnecessary.

           History now reveals that Japan and the U.S. had already been meeting secretly for months to negotiate an end to the war. Japan had agreed to surrender but negotiations were stuck over the Japanese demand that the Emperor be spared, a provision that the U.S. eventually agreed to.  As for the dreaded invasion of the mainland, it was not scheduled until the spring of 1946, hardly a major consideration in August when surrender was weeks away.

           After the war, a long list of generals, admirals, and high U.S. government officials insisted that the atom bombs were not necessary.  The list included generals MacArthur and Eisenhower and fleet admirals Nimitz and Halsey. Did dropping the bomb really end the war or were there other reasons for the decision?

            Many scholars discard the cover story and instead cite three other reasons.  As the war was drawing to a close, top U.S. officials worried about the next great threat: Joseph Stalin and the communist empire.  One of the reasons for the horrific firebombing of Dresden near the end of World War II was to send a message to Stalin to beware of American might, determination, and ruthlessness. The same reasoning was behind the decision to drop the A-bombs.  Evidence of this comes from a personal conversation in March of 1944 between Gen. Groves and physicist Joseph Rotblat.  Groves explicitly stated that the real purpose of the A-bomb was not to defeat Japan but to scare the Russians.  Upon learning about the real purpose of the bomb, Dr. Rotblat promptly quit the Manhattan project.  He was the only senior scientist to do so, and recently he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

           The second reason for dropping the bomb was the intense political pressure which resulted from diverting enormous amounts of war funding into the Manhattan Project.  Both critics and defenders of the project demanded results. There would be all hell to pay if all that money was spent and the bomb was never used.

                   The third reason was the technological imperative.  The military wanted to know more about what the bomb did to cities and how it killed people.  Scientists were eager to learn more about atomic weaponry and in particular they wanted to study the difference between a uranium bomb (Hiroshima) and a plutonium bomb (Nagasaki).  Everyone feared that the war would end before they could use the new “gadget,” as Truman called it.  Like Dresden, the military wanted to bomb an intact city rather than a partially destroyed city.  Thus, Hiroshima was seldom attacked during the war to “save” it so that it could be totally destroyed with the new weapon.

           The military objected to a demonstration (like creating a tidal wave in Tokyo Bay or blowing off the top of Mt. Fuji) because they wanted to experiment with a populated city. Of great interest was the effects of radiation on human beings, something that would be difficult to study after the war.  In order to learn more, the U.S. formed the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission after the war to study radiation effects on the hibakusha, the Japanese on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who managed to survive The hibakusha were tested and examined, not to help them but to document incidence of cancer and other radiation-induced diseases.  The result was the heavily-flawed Hiroshima Survivor Study which was manipulated by authorities to trivialize the effects of radiation.  It is still widely cited by the nuclear industry to claim that radiation from nuclear power plants is not harmful.

                   The fascination with the effects of radiation on humans continued for three decades after the war with 4000 secret experiments conducted with unsuspecting people in the U.S. and in the Marshall Islands. It was not until 1995 that the U.S. government finally confessed to these Nazi-doctor experiments with the publication of the 925 page report, entitled, Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.  In order to apologize and admit guilt, the U.S. Congress passed the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act (RECA) which has awarded billions to tens of thousands of victims of the radiation experiments.

           In Japan, the suffering from Hiroshima and Nagasaki continued long after the A-bombs were dropped.  By 1950, over 200,000 Japanese had perished from the bomb.  Very few Japanese soldiers were killed and ninety-five percent of the casualties were civilians.  Those who died from cancer and other medical complications in the following half century are generally not counted.  The Japanese government estimates that over 2,000 citizens continue to die every year, not from old age, but from medical effects related to when they were irradiated as children in 1945 on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

                   Meanwhile, the use of new technology to kill civilians continued to advance.  In the Viet Nam War, carpet bombing techniques were made even more deadly with the greater payloads of the B-52.  More bombs were dropped in Viet Nam than in all theaters of World War II combined.  Unexploded cluster bombs and anti-personnel munitions continue to kill and maim civilians, 40% of them children.

             In the Persian Gulf War, the public was led to believe that most of the allied air attacks involved “smart” bombs with pinpoint accuracy aimed at military targets.  After the war, we learned that the vast majority of the ordinance consisted of old-fashioned “dumb” bombs that often missed their targets.  The Pentagon insisted that it was not targeting civilians, yet it deliberately destroyed water supplies, knowing full well that the suffering would be borne mainly by women, children and the elderly.  American public health officials estimated that more than 100,000 Iraqi children died from war-related causes.

           In the British War Museum, a special clock tallies the number of human beings who have died from wars in the 20th Century.  The toll is fast approaching 100 million, 12 times higher than that of the 19th Century and 22 times greater than the 18th Century.  At this rate, we might expect 1 billion people to die in the wars of the 21st Century. Military analysts believe that a nuclear war could easily generate 500 million casualties.

           Where is the outrage?  Are our national priorities in the future going to be as militaristic as in the past?  Fifty years after the war that made targeting civilian populations routine, bomber pilots are celebrated as heroes.  The search for more terrible weapons continues.  Today, the current conservative Congress has censored a Smithsonian exhibit critical of the suffering at Hiroshima.  Congress has slashed funding for education, the environment, health and the arts, and voted huge expenditures for long-range nuclear attack B-2 bombers.  The American public appears to be supportive since 3.9 trillion tax-payer dollars have been sunk into nuclear weapons programs alone since 1945.  By this measure, all the ingredients are in place to guarantee that the future will be worse than the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please join a new petition to fund the National Academy of Science cancer study in our area

Here is an important issue for everyone who lives in CA 49, CA 48, and CA 45:   Does living within 50 miles of San Onofre increase your risk of cancer (especially for women, children, and the human fetus)?  The cancer study to be carried out here by the National Academy of Sciences was terminated by the NRC.  This petition is an attempt to show public support for restarting it.  Please join with an RSVP indicating your NAME and CITY OF RESIDENCE.  Please also circulate to anyone you know who might be interested or concerned.

The Samuel Lawrence Foundation

Invites you to sign a petition sponsored by

Phyllis Agran, MD, Professor Emeritus, Irvine

Richard Appelbaum, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Santa Barbara

Frank Chisari, MD, Professor Emeritus, Del Mar

Bill Honigman, MD, North Tustin

Roger Johnson, PhD, Professor Emeritus, San Clemente

David Krieger, PhD, President Emeritus, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa Barbara

Donald Mosier, MD, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Del Mar

Bart Ziegler, PhD, President, Samuel Lawrence Foundation, Del Mar

Petition

We the undersigned request that our representatives in Congress seek funding from the House Appropriations Committee for the commencement of research recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in a 2015 report entitled,  Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities.   If you wish to join the petition, please reply with your name and city of residence.   If you would like to circulate this petition to others, please have them click on this link where they can reply directly to the Samuel Lawrence Foundation:               

The representatives of those who live within 50 km of radioactive emissions from nuclear power plants are:

 

                                    CA 24: Congressman Salud Carbajal

                                    CA 45: Congresswoman Katie Porter

                                    CA 48: Congressman Harley Rouda

                                    CA 49: Congressman Mike Levin

Background

The San Onofre nuclear power plant (CA 45, 48, and 49) has been discharging low-level radioactivity into the ocean and atmosphere regularly since 1968.  The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant (CA 24) has been doing the same since 1985.  No one knows for sure whether these radioactive releases are a threat to the health and safety for those who live in these areas (or over 100 million Americans who also live near nuclear power plants).  The most recent research in the United States was carried out 29 years ago and is now considered heavily flawed and outdated.  More recent studies in Europe have reported an increase in cancer risks for those living near nuclear power plants.

In order to address this important question, the National Academy of Sciences was charged with reexamining the issues.  After five years of study, it released a 412 page Phase 1 report plus a Phase 2 plan for a pilot study of six of the nation’s nuclear power plants including one in California.  The research proposes to study cancer in people who live within 50 km of San Onofre.   If increased cancer risks are discovered, populations around all nuclear power plants in the U.S. would be studied.  The research was never carried out because the NRC terminated funding just as the research was about to begin.   Since the National Academy of Sciences is funded only by government agencies, this petition requests that Congress appropriate the $8 million necessary to re-start this research.  This is a scientific endeavor which will improve our understanding of cancer, the leading cause of death in California.  It is especially important for women, children, and the human fetus who are much more vulnerable to the biological effects of harmful ionizing radiation.

 

Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations near Nuclear Facilities: Phase 1 (2012) http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Analysis-Cancer-Risks-Populations/13388

Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities: Phase 2 Pilot Planning (2015) http://dels.nas.edu/Nuclear/Radiation-Health-Effects/Reports-Academies-Findings

 

In the News, Late Fall 2019

The News in Brief   Extreme weather displaced 7 million people so far this year making 2019 the most disastrous year in decades….Preparing for disasters has become a multimillion-dollar enterprise for developers.  They are now buying old missile silos and remodeling them as underground condos where people can hide when the big catastrophe comes….Speaking of developers, did you know that Steven Craig, developer of the Outlets at San Clemente, donated $991,880 to help unseat democrats in California?  And speaking of looming disasters, storing nuclear waste now costs taxpayers $7.5 billion a year.  San Onofre alone has 1,773 tons of highly radioactive plutonium and uranium sitting on our beach for the indefinite future.  Each of the 123 canisters could release more deadly Cesiium 137 than 1000 atomic bombs. (There are over 3000 such canisters nationwide.)  Meantime, Southern California Edison has turned off 50 emergency sirens in Orange and San Diego County

Trump vowed to shrink the trade deficit but instead he increased it.  The trade deficit is now running about $481 billion, way above what it was last year. Donald Trump and the Republicans have caused the national debt to soar to $22 trillion, a new record…..Who benefited from the 2017 Republican tax cut legislation? It was advertised as a boon to low income people but instead it has become a giant boondoggle for the wealthiest Americans which is what the Republicans intended all along.  Take Jared Kushner, Chris Christie, and Anthony Scaramucci for example.  They use tax incentives supposedly designed for the poor and instead these super-rich developers racked in huge profits,  not by building low-income housing as they were supposed to do but instead by developing high end hotels and apartment buildings….As for Trump’s fake “charity,” a judge ruled that there was a “shocking pattern of illegality” designed to raise a slush fund Trump could use to promote himself.  A judge fined him $2 million and shut down the scam….Did you know that the 400 richest Americans now pay a lower tax rate than the middle class?

 Moving on to the environment, Trump has rolled back rules for energy efficiency in light bulbs.  With more than 6 billion lightbulbs in use, Trump wants us to use the old energy wasteful bulbs…. Gas companies vent or flare enormous amounts of excess gas they cannot sell.  Gas companies released more than 350 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere last year, about the same as the emissions of 75 million cars….A loophole in laws governing the leasing of public land for oil and gas has allowed Chevron, Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and others to avoid $18 billion in taxes….Trump has decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement which was designed to help combat climate change, a world-wide agreement signed by about 200 countries.  The United States now joins countries like Russian, Iran, and Iraq who have failed to ratify the Paris Agreement….An iceberg in Antarctica the size of the island of Oahu was recently shed into the ocean….Trump’s EPA has moved to weaken regulations on how much toxic pollution coal companies can dump into the nation’s waterways….Trump has announced plans to weaken vehicle emission and fuel efficiency standards so it will be legal for cars to produce more pollution….The U.S. Interior Dept. long blocked the plan by rich corporate farmers to raise the Shasta Dam.  Scientists regarded this project as environmentally damaging, cost-prohibitive, and illegal.  That was before Trump.  His new interior secretary David Bernhardt is pushing the plan through at a taxpayer cost which may reach one billion dollars.  Guess what Bernhardt’s previous job was? Lobbyist for California’s wealthiest farmers who want the dam raised to get more water for themselves….Finally, here is Trump’s new policy for National Parks:  Cut their budgets and commercialize them for private profit.

 Now the military bad news, not counting surrendering Syria to Russia and Iran.  Guantanamo costs taxpayers $13 million per prisoner… The U.S. Navy Zumwalt class destroyer program has cost taxpayers $22.5 billion so far.  It has produced only 3 ships….Are you familiar with the recent trial in San Diego of Edward Gallagher? Other Navy SEALS testified that he killed prisoners of war and took trophy photos with the corpses.  He also used his sniper rifle to kill young girls and old men.  The result of the trial: The Navy court acquitted him.  President Trump congratulated him.

In the last election, Trump campaigned on ending corruption in Washington, but once in office he threw open the doors for perhaps the worst corruption in memory. Example: Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation who is married to none other than guess who, Mitch McConnell.  How does she spend her time?  According to reports, much or her time and effort is spent using DOT to benefit hubby in Kentucky. She also directs government business toward Foremost, a shipping company owned by, you guessed it, her own family….Dept. of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (net worth $5.4 billion and owner of 2 helicopters and 8 boats) was fined $100,00 by a judge for defying a court order to stop forcing students defrauded by the for-profit Corinthian University to pay back debts.  Betsy is using her office to trash public education and promote for-profit private education…. Senate Republicans are blocking $255 million in funding for minority colleges….Meanwhile, Trump wants to cut school lunch programs for the poor. This could send a half a million children to school with no lunch….And did you know that bullet proof backpacks for kids are now in high demand….Scientists say the white extremist ideology is a common theme for mass shooters.

 Finally, 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump and 25% of Americans still can’t make up their mind about impeachment.

 

In the News, Fall 2019

 The right-wing media and climate change    But what do we have here in Orange County?  Editorial page writer Susan Shelley  (Susan@SusanShelley.complease write to her)  at the Orange County Register ridicules Thungren and what she calls “climate change hysteria.”  Climate hysteria drives the extinction of common sense


Our young activists are under fire  Greta Thungren, the 16 year old climate activist from Sweden, is now getting headlines here in the U.S. just as she did in Europe.  Her plea is simple: the older generation has plundered the world and provided a gloomy future for the younger generation. It is time for everyone, especially young people, to act.  Don’t just talk, act like your house is on fire, she pleads.  Indeed, she has inspired many.  In San Diego, a high school student wrote this Op-Ed for the San Diego Union Tribune.   Commentary: Greta Thunberg inspired me to be a climate activist. Now I want to inspire others.


Frances Crow passes away at age 100    One of the heroes of the last century passed away in August at age 100.  What an amazing story about this Quaker activist woman who dedicated her life to anti-war activism.  She convinced a B-52 pilot to become a conscientious objector. She refused to pay war taxes and the government responded by subtracting 15% of her social security.  She helped get Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! on college radio stations.  At age 92 she chained herself to the front gate of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Read about this truly inspirational woman: Frances Crowe | Americans Who Tell The Truth


What do mass killers have in common?  A disturbing answer: a hatred of women.  A Common Trait Among Mass Killers: Hatred Toward Women


Teen Climate Activist Crosses the Atlantic   Remember Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish girl who sparked a global youth movement to battle climate change?  She started by picketing the Swedish parliament and eventually won a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.  She has been invited to address UN climate talk meetings in September but she refuses to fly because of the enormous carbon footprint of jet planes.  On Aug. 14 she climbed aboard a sailboat in Plymouth, England to cross the Atlantic headed for New York. Bully for her, a teenager who confronts the current generation which is trashing the hopes of future generations.  Greta Thunberg Sets Sail for U.N. Climate Talks

Climate Rocks Europe and the Arctic   Speaking of climate change, NOAA announced that global temperatures in July were the highest on record.  Many in Europe suffered waves of 100+ days and even the nuclear power plants were forced to shut down because cooling water was too hot to do its job.  My, how fragile and unreliable those nuclear power plants are! By the end of the summer, global heat will melt about 440 billion tons of Greenland’s giant ice sheets. Scientists calculate that this amount of water could flood the state of Pennsylvania with more than a foot of water.  What are they finding under the ice in the Arctic?  Plastic. The journal Science just reported that the most pristine location on Earth has astonishingly high concentrations of plastic.  Scientists say that by 2050 the world will be dumping 3.4 billion metric tons of plastic, most of it ending up in the oceans.  Microplastic in the atmosphere is making its way to the pristine Arctic

Trump Tower May End Up on Obama Ave.  On the lighter side, about 300,000 people have petitioned to have one block of 5th Ave. in NYC renamed Obama Avenue.  If this passes, Trump Tower would be officially located at 725 Obama Ave.Trump Tower on Obama Avenue: 290,000 Say Yes, but It Won’t Happen

Other Clever Ways to Torture Don Trump   Gail Collins has a bunch of suggestions, for example start a rumor that Trump can’t draw a crowd.  Opinion | How to Torture Trump  In another column entitled “Trump Goes Godly,” Collins jokes about the man who thinks he is a miracle.  After all, didn’t Trump himself say, “I am the chosen one!”  Opinion | Trump Goes Godly

Trump’s Fake Crowds   Trump is desperate for crowds.  In Pittsburg, workers were coerced into attending a Trump rally or else get their pay docked.  Workers at the Royal Dutch Steel plant were told that “anything viewed as resistance” would not be tolerated.  To add insult to injury, the workers had to stand and listen to Trump attack labor unions.  Trump’s Pittsburgh Speech Was a Paying Gig for the Audience

Donald Trump Apologizes   Some say that Trump never apologizes.  Not true.  Here is a sample:  “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest and you all know it!”  Here are other apologies: I’m sorry, by Donald Trump

What Are the Leading Causes of Death?  Among young people, gunfire is the second leading cause of death in America. Among black youths, the leading cause of death is being killed by a police officer.  Guns Are No. 2 Cause of Death Among the Young, Data Show    Getting killed by police is a leading cause of death for young black men in America

See the Innards of an Assault Rifle   When it comes to mass shootings, military arms are the most deadly weapons used.  Strictly speaking, they are illegal but gun manufacturers regularly tinker with AR-15s to circumvent laws and make them pass as “sporting rifles.”  See how the gun manufacturers play this game:  When Lawmakers Try to Ban Assault Weapons, Gunmakers Adapt

What about the Death Penalty?   Speaking of killing people, read this thoughtful perspective.  It is all about desire for revenge, nothing to do with deterrence (which has been proven not to work):  Opinion | When We Kill

The Death of Reading   Today’s teenagers have given up reading for the “tyranny of texting and a dizzying array of social media platforms….Students are perpetually, almost manically distracted in class and at home.  The ability to focus on a single task has largely been lost.”  Op-Ed: My high school students don’t read any more. I think I know why

The Death of the Titanic  The Titanic sank in 1912 drowning 1,500 people.  The wreck was discovered in 1985 but alors, even the wreck is now almost totally consumed by the ocean.  Where the Titanic Shipwreck Rests, New Photos Reveal Extensive Decay

The Richer Continue to Get Richer and everyone else is not.  Analysts say that the next generation is 25% less likely to attain the American dream.  Cartoons help illustrate what is going on.  This Cartoon Explains How the Rich Got Rich and the Poor Got Poor – Vox – Pocket


How to Appear Smart in Meetings  Here are 10 tricks to pull at meetings so everyone will be impressed at how smart you are.  10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Meetings – Sarah Cooper – Pocket


Orange is the New Blue   Even the Orange County Register now admits it:  there are now more Democrats than Republicans in OC.  Republican voter registration is taking a nose dive.  Can anyone guess why?  A former SOCP speaker reports:  Why Orange County is the new blue   And what would Abraham Lincoln think of the current Republican Party?  Read this:  Opinion | Lincoln Would Not Recognize His Own Party

Has the Republican Party become a Cult Worship Party?  It is alarming that about 80% of Republicans continue to endorse Trump no matter what he does.  What has become of the Republican Party???  Read what Nicholas Kristof has to say:  Opinion | The G.O.P. Is Now a Personality Cult  Also read Kristof on whether Trump is a racist:  Opinion | Trump Is Racist to the Bone

The Realities of Radiation Monitoring   After every major radiation release incident in history, authorities have moved quickly to shut down (rather than expand) what the public knows.  That is what happened in Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima, and recently in Russia.  As soon as they deteced radiation, authorities shut down the monitoring.  When it happened, authorities ignored the incident, then denied it. Then they covered it up after which they lied about it and then trivialized it. They started a plan to evacuate people, but then cancelled it because protecting people is less important than protecting the perception that radiation is harmless.  Expect this to happen here when the big accident occurs.  After all, we have now become a nuclear waste dump for the indefinite future. Authorities here are resisting real-time publicly accessible monitoring.  They have already dismantled warning sirens.  As the radiation from Russia now spreads over Norway, read the double talk about protecting people from radiation exposure:  Norway detects radioactive iodine days after explosion in Russia

What Do Animals Think About?  About 98% of our DNA is shared with our closest evolutionary relative, the chimp.  Read about Sarah, one of the smartest chimps. She recently died in her late 50’s.  Opinion | The World’s Smartest Chimp Has Died

In the News Spring – Summer 2019

Class Warfare:  Winners and Losers  The media are full of shocking stories of income inequality.  While the median household income continues to drop, the wealth of the richest continues to rise.  The income of the top 0.01% has skyrocketed, the income of the upper middle class has gone up a little, but lower and middle class incomes have fallen.  In California, upper crust wages were 72% higher than the median income.  Remember when America was the place where you could go from rags to riches?  That fairy tale is over.  But if you are already very rich, there is a good chance you can become filthy rich.  The 25 top managers of hedge funds earned $11 billion in 2016. For these tycoons, it scarcely mattered if their returns were ugly. How does it feel when the CEO in your company earns in 2 hours what you earn in a year?  Disney CEO Bob Iger got an 80% pay raise this year.  He now earns $65 million a year, 1,424 times the salary of his employees.  Even Disney heir Abagail Disney (net worth $500 million) called this “naked indecency.”  But her worth is peanuts compared to Bloomberg’s estimate of the $163 billion worth of the Walmart heirs. (Think of that every time you buy something at Walmart.)  In Britain, they are fighting back with “name and shame” the executives with outlandish incomes.  Britain now has a public register which lists lavish salaries and their ratios to the salaries of workers in their company.  Surprisingly, there is even some blowback from the 1%.  As 5000 of the world’s richest gathered at a Beverly Hilton conference, they were warned about looming class warfare.  The free enterprise system is not working and only a few are benefiting.  According to the LAT, the message for Capitalism is: “Reform or Revolution.”

Self-Destruction in Britain  Have you been watching the downward spiral of what was once a great nation?  The politics of “No” has permeated every level of government and society.  Political chaos, social distrust, and signs of collapse everywhere (America take note).

Robo Call Alert One thing politicians say they agree on is the need to do something about robo calls. Unfortunately, robo callers remain a few steps ahead of any attempts to regulate them.  The head of one company called YouMail says he makes 2.3 billion calls a month.  Robocallers from Uzbekistan can make it look like your neighbor is calling.  When you suspect a robo call, answer but remain silent. Most robo calls are simultaneous multiple dials which are voice activated and will quickly drop you if you don’t activate it. Here is how to rebel or retaliate.

Who Assesses Trump’s Mental Health?  The 25th Amendment empowers Congress to assess a president’s mental health.  But who can decide or agree upon a clinical judgment?  There is plenty of speculation that Trump is mentally ill, but no one seems to know what to do.

Click here.

Big Tobacco Hooks Children on Sugar Drinks  When the walls were closing in on tobacco, Big Tobacco diversified into another form of addiction: sugary drinks.  They used their expertise in selling addiction to make sugar drinks attractive to children. A third of American children are now considered obese or overweight, and rates of Type 2 diabetes are soaring.  “We’ve decided to focus our marketing on kids,” boasted a Kool-Aid executive. (Kool-Aid is part of General Foods which is owned by RJR Tobacco.)

The Drug Industry Spends Lavishly not only to influence doctors but also with paid ads targeting the public.  Drug advertising has risen by 70% according to the American Medical Association.  Drug companies now spend $30 billion a year to push their drugs.

The Eyeglasses Scam Getting ripped off on eyewear? Tired of bloated eyewear pricing? These are the headlines of an expose by LAT writer David Lazaus. After Italy’s Luxottica merged with France’s Essilor there is very little competition in eyewear and price gouging is the rule.  Luxottica (owner of Lens Crafters) owns almost all of the brands you can buy. The founder of Lens Crafters admitted that the best designer frames and lenses cost about $15, everything above is gouging.

Why Are Tourists Flocking to Bhutan?  A centuries old tradition in Bhutan is to celebrate the phallus. They are painted on walls, carved over doorway entrances, and worn as necklaces to ward off evil. Phallus art is thriving in Bhutan!

Beware, The Grannies Are Marching!   Last month we celebrated teenagers who are taking up social protest.  Now the Grannies are Marching.  In Vienna, Grannies are holding weekly protest marches, mostly against the rise of right wing Fascism.  Maybe the Grannies of the US should get organized?

Fascism on the Rise  LAT reporter Scott Timberg writes that democracies are falling victim to the allure of authoritarianism.  Formerly secret groups are now more open and brazen, and publishers are releasing many new titles claiming that the public is getting more interested in fascism. Even Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, has a new book Fascism: A Warning. Look at what is happening in Turkey, Venezuela, Russia, North Korea, Hungary, Poland, and the Philippines.  She asks, can it happen here? 

The Great Republican War on Democracy  This is the disturbing title of an Op-Ed by Jamelle Bouie.  Paul Krugman has a similar piece, “The Great Republican Abdication: A party that no longer believes in American values.” Republican advisor Scott Jennings explains that Republicans will never quit Trump – the former Republican Party is now the Trump Party.

Click here and here.

What Country Develops the Most Sport Champions?  In the Winter Olympics Games, Norway has won more medals than any other country. The score:  Norway, 39 (population 5.3 million), United States 23 (population 328 million).  The secret is surprising: Norway lets Children be Children (that is the headline of the paper edition of the study).  Compare the way Norway raises its children and the way America raises its children.

What Countries Are the Happiest?  The first four are Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.  USA came in 19th.  See the whole list:

The Kansas Experiment Ends in Failure  Remember all the conservative Republican ballyhoo about the marvels of supply side economics?  Slash taxes (especially for the rich).  Slash government spending!  Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback championed this policy slashing taxes more than any other state.  The Republican legislature slavishly followed his wishes and the result was a disaster for the state.  Brownback (now out of office) became even more unpopular than Donald Trump and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.

Israel Successfully Fires Missile Designed to be Hidden in Shipping Containers The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries has successfully test fired is LORA missile.  It is designed to be concealed in a standard shipping container.  It can launch a 3500 lb. projectile 250 miles within t0 minutes of opening.  This system can convert any civilian vessel into a missile launching platform. The price is unclear as is who the customers will be but think of this as you watch the ships near the horizon (about 17 miles away).  There are over 50,000 cargo ships registered to 150 nations.  A medium-sized cargo ship can carry 1,000 containers. The Port of Los Angeles is the #1 container port in the country logging 9.5 million containers.  Shipping companies lose track of about 1,500 containers a year.  What could possibly go wrong?

Humans Origins and Extinctions A new 1,500 page report by international scientific experts paints a grim future for life on planet Earth.  As many as one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction because one species (homo sapiens) continues to plunder ecosystems.  As long as human beings are around, it appears other forms of life will suffer.    As for our origins, new fossils question the standard theory that modern humans drifted out of Africa about 60,000 years ago. Fossils in China, Australia, and Saudi Arabia suggest that homo sapiens may have started their migrations much earlier.

Learn How Insignificant You Are  Surprise! The universe has 10 times more galaxies than previously thought!  The Hubble Space Telescope reports that there are about 2 trillion galaxies in the cosmos. Each galaxy may have 100 million stars. There are probably 19,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars similar to ours with at least one planet similar to Earth. Even our own Milky Way probably has 40 billion Earth-sized planets.  Scientists say that the key to understanding the universe is to study supermassive black holes. The good news is that none is close enough to suck up our entire solar system and make it disappear. The bad news is that there are so many black holes that it is impossible to count them.  Some of the biggest black holes (300 million light years away) may have gobbled up 21 billion suns.  To understand how insignificant our species is, consider a 2 hour documentary film about life on Earth.  Footage about human beings would take up the last 2 seconds.   The way we are going, how long will we  be around?  Some scientists specular that this is our last century.

The News in Brief

            New Trump plan to reduce poverty: change how you define poverty. This would allow him to achieve his goal of taking away health care and food assistance from millions of Americans….The Pentagon has spent $300 billion on anti-missile defense but half of the tests have failed, even when there is only one incoming missile and the “defense” knew in advance the timing and location of the missile….Rhode Island has initiated a “lunch shaming program.”  Poor students who can’t pay could receive nothing other than jelly sandwiches to embarrass them in front of all the other students….Trump picked a Kathleen White to head of the Council on Environmental Quality even after she said that carbon dioxide is harmless and renewable energy is parasitic.  Then Trump picked a coal lobbyist to head the EPA and a Boeing executive to be Secretary of Defense in spite of allegations of ethics violations. White was eventually dropped but the other two now control EPA and DOD….The 20 warmest years on record have all come in the last 22 years….The F-35 fighter jets cost $100 million each….Since plastics were invented, over 9 billion tons have been produced. Up to 14 million tons of it wind up in the ocean every year….The ban on plastics straws? Devin Nunes  retorts: “Welcome to Socialism in California!” Meanwhile, the Conservative Politicial Action Conference warns America that the Democrats are coming after your hamburgers, “just like Stalin!” ….The Justice Dept. announced that it will no longer defend prohibitions against female genital mutilations.  Your Justice Dept. has also stopped defending the Affordable Care Act and instead now attacks it….The Pentagon says it has killed only 108 civilians in bombing and drone attacks in Africa and Asia. The non-profit group Airwars says your tax dollars killed somewhere between 800-1,700 civilians….Economists say that declining wages are not because of automation. Rather they are caused but the current political environment which is deeply hostile to labor.  Let’s face it, says Paul Krugman, our system is rigged against workers….Facebook has been selling sensitive user health information.  A tool called Flo Health allows women to predict when they ovulate. Results are secretly reported back to Facebook which then sells the information to advertisers who then target her for products.  Users are not informed and there is no way they can stop the data transfer….In the U.S., a gun is stolen every 2 minutes.  There are now over 400 million guns in the country….On the brighter side of things, a group of astronomers on April 10 successfully photographed a black hole near the center of the Milky Way. This particular black hole has the gravitational mass of 4 million suns that have disappeared from the visible universe.

In the News Winter 2019

In the News Winter 2019

Trump Imperils the Planet  In an editorial by the same name, the NYT lambasts the environmental record of the President.

The Decline of California Republicans  A big full page story in the NYT begins with “The California Republican Party…is teetering on the brink of irrelevance.”     And on Jan. 3, a Republican analyst posted this Op-Ed entitled Trump’s Damage to Republicans.  

U.S. Gun Deaths Soar, Especially Among Children  About 40,000 Americans died in 2017 from firearms, about two-thirds being suicides.  Much is not known about the issue because in 1996 the NRA successfully pressured Congress to block the Center for Disease Control from funding any studies about firearms and prohibited the agency from advocating gun control. Today, the Republicans continue to block gun control legislation. Dr. Garen Wintemute, an emergency medicine doctor at UC Davis said that the rise in firearms deaths was a result of “a national unwillingness to take this problem seriously.”  The NRA has tried to intimidate doctors by mocking those who treat gunshot victims:  “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.”  Meanwhile, firearms are one of the leading causes of childhood death in the U.S.  American children are 80 times more likely to die from firearms than children in Hungary, Sweden, Tajikistan, and Romania.

Hate Crimes on the Increase In a worrisome new trend, hate crimes, anti-semitism, and crimes based on sexual orientation continued to rise in 2018. White supremacist groups are flourishing and schools report more and more incidents of swastikas, sex stereotypes, and Holocaust insults.  Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism says, “We used to look at hate crimes as individual pathology. But now, social media has amplified and weaponize our divisions.”

Republicans Join Far Right Extremists in Mocking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  When this New York representative, the youngest ever women elected to Congress, was sworn in, Republicans rudely booed her.  A far right conspiracy tweeter posted this:  “Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is.”  Republicans were incensed when Occasio-Cortez supported a colleague who used a swear word to criticize Trump,  Occasio-Cortez responded:   “Republican hypocrisy at its finest: saying that Trump admitting to sexual assault on tape is just ‘locker room talk,’ but scandalizing themselves into faux-outrage when my sis says a curse word in a bar. The GOP lost entitlement to policing women’s behavior a long time ago. Next.”  

The Trump Tax Cut:  90% of Americans Will End Up Poorer  Trump promised soaring investments, waves of pay increases, and a tax cut that would pay for itself.  None of this happened.  Yes, corporations became richer but they used it for stock buybacks rather than wage increases.   To make matters worse, the Republicans have gutted the IRS and filled it full of loopholes, all of which mainly benefits the very rich.

Like Grandfather, Like Grandson  According to an LAT Op-Ed,  both Donald Trump and his grandfather were both draft dodgers.  

Price-fixing of Generic Drugs Generic drugs were supposed to be a boon to consumers who are tired of getting ripped off by drug companies, right? Wrong.  Investigators have discovered wide spread collusion and price fixing in 47 states.  

What is the Happiest Town in the World? 

Does Everyone Have a Moral Duty to Leave Facebook?  The director of the Center for Bioethics at NYU poses this question.  Many are slow to grasp the radicalization of the internet and how it has changed society.  Social media have played a key role in the rise of violent right-wing extremism and we now know that it may have resulted in the election of Donald Trump.  The internet is a playground for powerful unprincipled people who want your money, your identity, your values, and they want to tell you how to vote. Facebook wants you to think it is your indispensable friend when in fact it is a juggernaut behemoth specializing in deceiving you and using you.  Recently revealed troves of emails show how FB executives using every cutthroat tactic possible to crush critics and competitors and to conceal their methods. Staff meetings often ended with chants of “Domination! Domination!”  FB sells your identity, everything you say, and every picture so it can be used for facial recognition.  It has become the poster boy for harvesting data, selling personal information for profit, and being deliberately deceptive and untrustworthy. FB allowed companies to search all customers and their friends without permission.  FB paved the way for others to invade our computers.  Now we learn that the Russian used a vast network of internet trolls on Instagram (owned by FB) to infiltrate American identity groups for the purpose of swaying them, usually in more extremist directions.  People uncritically soaked it up.  The Russians got 185 million “likes.”  In another example, it was recently charged that The Weather Channel secretly sold users identities and locations without permission.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/24/opinion/sunday/facebook-immoral.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/technology/russian-interference-instagram.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/05/technology/facebook-emails-privacy-data.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/24/opinion/sunday/facebook-twitter-terrorism-extremism.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/12/opinion/facebook-data-privacy-advertising.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/us/politics/facebook-data-sharing-deals.html

Right Wing Hackers Attack German Government  Three years ago, Russian hackers broke into  the German Parliament computer network. Germany responded by increasing cyber security but on Jan. 4, 1000 members of Parliament plus many other prominent Germans found that all of their personal information (phone numbers, email addresses, bank accounts, addresses, private chats, photos of their children) were now on Twitter. Those revealed had at some point in their lives been critical of the right wing.  The only people spared in this Twitter attack were the politicians of the far right wing.  Who could have possibly done this? Duh. 

Sinclair Broadcasting Features Trump Fake News  PEW research reports that 37% of Americans rely on local TV news, almost as much as the 45% who get their “news” from Facebook (only 18% read daily newspapers). Sinclair Broadcasting now owns 193 stations which reach 40% of Americans.   Their chief political analyst is Boris Epshteyn, former Trump aide. Another producer is Kristine Frazao, a former reporter and anchor for the Russian propaganda network RT who recently ranted right-wing accusations that there is a “deep state” running America.  Sinclair regularly attacks other media outlets as fake news but runs its own fake news:  continuous pro-Trump talking points. They harshly criticized other media for reporting that Trump called Haiti and African countries  “Shithole countries.”  During the Obama years, they ran sleazy ads trying to portray President Obama as a Muslim.  Most recently, they defended the use of tear gas on migrants.   

 Two things are alarming about Sinclair.  First, their news programs come across as local news on ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates and viewers don’t realize that they are getting fake news biased by Sinclair’s political leanings.  Second,  local anchors are required to report some segments even if they totally disagree with the contents. Sinclair calls these segments “must run segments” which local stations cannot omit. Some derisively call these segments “Trump-a-grams.”  One local news director says:  “These MUST Run. If they do not, my job is on the line.”

 These segments praise Trump profusely, just like FOX News.  In return, Trump praises Sinclair (just like he promotes FOX and even uses their “news” to make policy decisions). Trump says:

 “So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”

 It is not only social media like Facebook which is deeply involved in spreading political misinformation.  It is now major TV networks like Sinclair.  The Vox report cited above concluded that these efforts profoundly affect what millions know about the world.  The goal is to “help the Republican Party and the Trump administration.”

 Does Trump Represent the Real America?  It is commonly thought that Trump is an aberration and does not represent the Soul of America.  But what if he is the “real” America?  Why do 40% of Americans support him no matter what he says or does?  His strongest supporters are those who label themselves as “values” voters, even though it seems to everyone else that Trump totally lacks moral values. Research shows that stubborn ideology often “trumps” facts and that many voters have no problem with politicians who lie.  Everyone knows that Trump is a dedicated liar, but many don’t care.  “He may be a liar, but he’s my liar.”  More troubling is the possibility that Trumpism simply reflects a long history of American values:  slavery, the genocidal history of the conquest of native Americans, militarism, endless wars, sexism, racism, greed, worship of guns, deference to the rich, trampling on the poor, criminalizing behavior of the poor but not behavior of the rich, etc. Will Trumpism ever end, even after he is gone?  

How do Republics Die? A new book, noted historian Edward Watts chronicles how the Roman empire slowly weakened and then rapidly collapsed.  The author said that his goal is to allow “readers to better appreciate the serious problems that result both from politicians who breach political norms and for citizens who choose not to punish them.”  The Roman Empire became dominated by patricians who loathed reform, profited from inequality, and would not embrace the common good.  The book reviewer sees Donald Trump as a farcical reincarnation of Tiberius Gracchus.  He pessimistically concludes that “The challenge to American’s political system is likely to persist long after its present occupant has left the White House.”   

What Trump Aides Say about Him  Trump tweets that his administration is “a smoothly running machine.”  But a record number of top officials have resigned or been fired, 23 so far.  Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame) has a new book Fear in which he reveals dysfunctional leadership and disdain among top aides and resulted in a “nervous breakdown” within the administration. Trump’s top economic advisor (Gary Cohn) stole a letter from his desk to prevent Trump from signing it.  Secretary of Defense Mattis said that Trump had the comprehension of a fifth grader.  “He is an idiot,” said Chief of Staff John Kelly. “It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”  National Security McMaster said that Trump is a “dope” no smarter than a kindergartner.” On the other hand, many former Trump advisors such as Hope Hicks (now at FOX News) have no criticisms of the President. 

Who is Keeping Everyone Laughing?  Like every Shakespeare tragedy, no matter how bad things get you always have to end with something uplifting. So here is Timothy Egan who writes that Trump is the most darkly comic person ever to occupy the White House.  He says that the poop backing up in the National Parks is a fitting image of Trump, the man who tells a 7 year old on Christmas eve that there is no Santa. Hopefully, Mark Twain is right; “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” 

More News in Brief  In major elections, 87% of Belgians vote.  Over 70% vote in Germany Norway, Hungary, Finland, New Zealand, Israel, the Netherlands, South Korea, Australia, Denmark, and Sweden.  In the last presidential election, only 55% of Americans bothered to vote….In 2016, there were 18,489 buttocks augmentation operations in the U.S., a 26% increase over 2015….In ancient Rome, about 20-40% of babies were left to die of exposure….About 80% of Christmas trees in the U.S. are artificial….The world population of people over 60 will double to 2.1 billion by 2050….Japan decided to resume commercial whale hunting and stop pretending that they were doing “research”…. Unnoticed for 4 years, hackers siphoned off a treasure trove of personal information from 500 million customers of Marriott and Starwood.  Names, addresses, email accounts, credit card accounts, birth dates, travel histories, passport numbers, you name it….700 million people views China’s annual Lunar New Year TV program….Cats are cheaper to insure than dogs.

Choice Letters to the Editor NYT

To the Editor Re “Trump Imperils the Planet” (editorial, Dec. 28):

This editorial is correct about the destructiveness of President Trump’s actions on climate change. It accurately and poignantly portrays the status of the climate change movement. It is buttressed with historical and scientific fact. It impassionedly appeals to our hearts, minds and souls.

Unfortunately, however, it misses what would be most effective — namely, removing the corrupt power of oil companies and other wealthy interests over government. This power is exerted through the legal bribery of public officials with lobbying and other money by the rich heads of private industries. And that problem could be fixed by rewriting campaign finance law.

No matter how persuasive the pro-climate argument, no matter how great a majority of the public can be convinced to support climate change action, that action will not happen so long as government officials depend for their political livelihood on the fossil fuel industry.

Art Saluk,  Pembroke Pines, Fla.

To the Editor Re The Wall

It’s not about the wall.  The $5 billion that President trump is asking for is 1/880th of the estimated $4.4 trillion federal budget for 2019.  It’s about the president.

It’s about telling lies nearly every day.

It’s about trying to kill Obamacare.

It’s about separating migrant toddlers from their families.

It’s about pulling out of the Paris climate accord.

It’s about believing Vladimir Putin rather than our own intelligence agencies.

It’s about ruining the holidays for 5,000 troops by sending them to the Mexican border in order to make a political statement.

It’s about defending white supremacists.

It’s about calling the press the enemy of the people.

It’s about hiding tax returns.

It’s about being a jerk for two years.

William Goldman, Palos Verdes Estates, CA

 

To the Editor Re “Trump lying is still a big deal” Dec. 28

How numb have we become to the lies of President Trump?”  He travels to Iraq and stands before our troops and lies to their faces about how he got them a 10% pay raise.  His comments were not misstatements; rather they were a part of a completely fabricated story that he had concocted.

If I had written the headline, it would have read, “Commander in chief lies to our troops.”

Larry Macedo, West Hills

To the Editor Re “Trump’s Lies,” by David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson (Op-Chart, Sunday Review, June 25):

I greatly appreciate the presentation of President Trump’s lies over these last five months, but I doubt that their publication will deter this president from continuing his mendacious behavior. Simply put, lying works for him: It gets him lots of headlines, and his supporters seem pleased that the mainstream media appears to be quite frustrated.

The bigger problem is that printing and broadcasting Mr. Trump’s lies isn’t having much effect on his tens of millions of supporters. They still tell pollsters that Mr. Trump is their voice. If we want to peel away Trump supporters, we have to not just publicize his lies but also demonstrate how the president’s actions threaten or hurt them personally. And, above all, we have to present better policies for all Americans.

RIC STEINBERGER
INCLINE VILLAGE, NEV.

To the Editor:

Your comprehensive list failed to cite the president’s most egregious lie, which occurred on Jan. 20, when Donald Trump swore to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

ROBERT WIENER, PARIS

In the News Fall 2018

Pollution May Diminish Thinking Skills  Anyone who has been to Beijing has been alarmed with the thick smog in which you can barely see anything in front of you.  A large new study suggests a link between air pollution and adverse effects on math and language skills.

Trump Wants the EPA  to OK More Pollution  Get ready for more pollution here at home.  Caving to industry pressure and directives from Trump, the EPA is revising pollution standards to permit more particulate release, the kind linked to heart and lung disease.  The government’s own analysis reveals that there will be about 1,400 premature deaths per year as a result, but Trump feels this is worth it because it means more profits for the coal industry executives who support him.  Trump is also trying to ease pollution standards for cars.  Trump officials in the EPA also want to ease restrictions on the pesticides which cause respiratory complications, developmental disorders, and lower the IQ of farm workers. More broadly, the Trump administration is engaging in an all-out war on science.  Once-trusted scientific studies based on years of data collection are now discarded and replaced with political judgments.  CropLife America, the main agricultural trade group, is demanding a halt to regulatory decisions based on scientific epidemiological studies.  To read more, click here, here, and here.

Trump and Giuliani Speak Out in Favor of Corruption in Romania.  Romania has long been considered one of the most corrupt states in Europe.  Lawmakers are finally making efforts to root out graft, but in wades Giuliani with an Aug. 22 letter blasting these efforts.  Giuliani demands that officials convicted of crimes of corruption should be grated amnesty.  

Get Ready for Ugly Political Trash  Political campaigns of all persuasions are gearing up for a barrage of robocalls, digital ads, and attack commercials.  In the last week of August, the Congressional Leadership Fund (actually a Republican superpac) spent $3.2 million on attack ads in our area. These ads malign Democratic challengers to Republican House seats.  By the way, hang up on any push polls.  A push poll starts off like a real poll attempting to learn your opinion.  In reality, they don’t care a hoot about your opinion and instead they want to feed you heavily slanted propaganda or even lies.  “Now let me read you some statements about Congressman X’s opponent.  Do you know he beats his wife and was arrested for drunk driving when he was 19?”   That is a push poll. 

Fake Media  Did you notice what FOX News was reporting on the blockbuster news day of Aug 21 when Cohen pleaded guilty and Manafort was convicted? All the networks were awash with explosive news…except FOX News which instead focused on an alleged crime by an immigrant in Iowa. But maybe at least some viewers are finally getting it:  On that date, FOX fell into third place in ratings behind MSNBC and CNN.  It is amazing that it has taken so long for people to realize that the Trump Channel is the real Fake News Channel. 

Trump’s Personal Fake Media  In addition to FOX news fake media, Trump also has control over the tabloid media.  The CEO of The National Enquirer is David Pecker, a personal pal of Donald Trump. Trump considers the tabloid to be legitimate media perhaps because it raves about him and attacks his enemies. Trump also likes The National Inquirer because it does “catch and kill” journalism which means they issue hush money and buy the rights to any bad publicity about Trump so it never gets published anywhere.  Apparently they have a special secret safe where they locked up decades worth of bad news about Trump. 

Is Facebook a Bore or a Major Threat to Society?  Speaking of fake media, people are wondering if FB could be much worse than a mere scam.  FB willingly participates in political hacking, collaborates with foreign governments to sway elections, offers a platform for all kinds of malicious purposes, and its top people continue to lie.  A recent study in Germany found that Facebook usage was directly linked to violence against refugees.  In Sri Lanka,  FB posts have been tied to violence against Muslims.  FB is being sued because it has been used to discriminate in housing on the basis of race and religion.  On Sept. 4, the NYT ran a frontpage lead story about how Libyan fighters use FB to buy arms and locate and then kill their foes.  Roger Cohen writes that FB is responsible for social harm that goes way beyond privacy.  To read more, click here, here, here , and here.

Fake Milk or Real Milk?  Did you know that Americans now drink about half as much cow’s milk as they did in 1970?  But what is milk?  The Milk War escalated recently when the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said, “An almond doesn’t lactate.” Is alternative milk like alternative facts?  

Education Secretary De Vos Wants to Make it Harder to Prosecute Sexual Assault, Rape, and Harassment on Campus  Secretary De Vos is not content with diverting tax payer education dollars away from public schools and into her family business of charter schools.  Now she is preparing new policies on campus sexual misconduct which would bolster the rights of those accused of crimes and make it easier for institutions to avoid liability.  But wait, Betsy also wants to divert taxpayer money from a federal grant program in order to fund the purchase of guns by school systems.  The goal is to have lots of people with guns in every school.  Here is what the NYT has to say about BetsyClick here for another article.

Worldwide Gun Violence  Betsy De Vos should read a recent study in the  Journal of the American Medical Association which reported that in 2016,  215,269 people were killed by guns (this figure does not include armed conflicts).  That is the equivalent of every man, woman, and child in a city like Glendale, Arizona.  There are about a billion guns in the world, many of them made in the U.S.  About 35% of the gun suicides in the world take place in the U.S.  The risk of dying from bullets in the United States is 100 times greater than it is in Singapore.  This report concludes that firearms are an important public health problem with severe social and economic costs.  

What Conservative Government Means in Britain  Northhamptonshire is a Conservative Party bastion sprinkled with affluent aristocratic estates.  But the town of Northhampton is broke.  The conservative government’s solution is to slash budgets.  Libraries have been shuttered, road repairs have ceased, trash collection has dwindled, and child care is on the chopping block.  The Conservatives preach austerity politics which protect the rich and harm the poor. People are finally rebelling and calling it “criminal politics.” 

New Arms Race in Space  While the Trump administration cuts back on health, education, and most social programs,  it is writing blank checks for anything to do with missiles and space weapons.  Trump is determined to weaponize space.  The Pentagon has secret apparently unlimited budgets for building armed space stations that can shoot down other satellites or conduct war on Earth from above.  There is even a plan to add a sixth branch of the armed services (along with army, navy, air force, etc.) to be called the Space Force.  Billions are being set aside for all the trappings from uniforms to administrative buildings.   In the meantime, the Pentagon is experimenting with the HTV-2 Hypersonic Technology Vehicle which can travel at 5 times the speed of sound.  In addition, the Pentagon has now spent $40 million on their newest missile defense system which includes launch silos near Lompoc, California.  The idea is to make people think we need not worry about North Korean missiles which can now reach any part of the United States.  We will just shoot them down!  Unfortunately, the program is a failure even after draining our tax dollars.  Tests showed that the missiles failed 50% of the time. So if enemies want to hit 20 targets, they launch 40 missiles.  San Onofre would probably be a prime target since even a conventional warhead would be an astronomic force multiplier. Sitting at ground level are thin stainless steel canisters holding the plutonium equivalent of 17,000 atom bombs.  To read more, click here and here.

The Truth about the Health Effects of Drinking  The health journal Lancet claimed to publish the definitive meta-analysis of the pros and cons of drinking.  Unfortunately, they muddled the waters and the truth is:  It Depends.  Read an analysis.

The Republican Show of Hypocrisy  As the draft-dodger president insults the war hero,  Republicans back the president but pretend to honor John McCain.  Or as the NYT puts it: “Congressional Republicans made a show of honoring John McCain, even as they continue to reject his principles.”  See the photo before the casket with McConnell, Ryan, Pence and other Republicans who owe their career to the unprincipled behavior that McCain despised.  

Will the Birthplace of Modern Conservatism Turn Blue?  The New York Times zeros in on Orange County: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/06/opinion/columnists/orange-county-california-midterm-democratic-party.html

A New Era in Astronomy  Astronomers have spent a century searching for the source of cosmic rays which are the key to understanding the nature of the universe.  Unfortunately, cosmic rays are warped by magnetic fields so it is impossible to tell where they came from.  Tiny and elusive neutrinos are not affected.  It takes 10 billion neutrinos to equal the mass of a proton, and billions pass through your fingertips every second.  Scientists have now succeeded in identifying 28 neutrinos and have traced their origins into deep space to a powerful blazar named TXS 0506+056, which sits just beneath the arm of the constellation Orion.   Read all about neutrino astronomy.

The Real Duncan Hunter  Read this NYT front page expose` of the real Duncan Hunter and what he does in his spare time.

Liberals, You’re Not As Smart as You Think  This is the headline of an Op-Ed by a professor of politics.

 

Is Trump a Symptom or a Cause of What’s Wrong with America?  Roger Cohen asks the troubling question:  Is Trump causing the malaise in America or does he reflect what the real America is like?  Did Trump get elected because there are millions and millions of Americans who share his values and principles? 

How to Get Into Harvard  Ever heard of lopping, dockets, or z lists?  That’s what getting into college is all about according to those delving into an unusual lawsuit against Harvard. A group of Asian-Americans is suing the university claiming that there is discrimination.  Harvard says it is not all about grades, especially since they could fill their classes with applicants posting perfect grades and test scores.  What they seek is diversity, something which is difficult to measure.  The Trump administration is gleefully jumping in, smelling an opportunity to destroy affirmative action, something that conservatives have long hated.  

More News in Brief

The World Health Organization reported that 92% of people worldwide breathe unhealthy air….Did you know that pigeons can fly over 100 mph….The famed Greenwich Village newspaper The Village Voice, a mainstream voice in New York City since 1955, has gone out of business….With sales dropping for its unhealthy sugary drinks, Coca-Cola suddenly turned to coffee with a $5.1 billion purchase of coffee giant Costa….Campbell Soups is famous for its heavily-salted canned soups and vegetables.  In recent years the company tried to improve its image by moving into fresher food options.  On Aug. 30, Campbell announced it is abandoning this effort and instead will continue to focus on junk food….Donald Trump, the self-described champion of working class America, cancelled pay raises for all government employees for next year.  Trump said the move would save the government $25 billion, money which is much needed to fund the $1.5 trillion tax cuts for the rich.  The transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich was also done to spite workers who had the audacity to resist Trump’s efforts to roll back protection for union workers….In 2017, sharks killed 5 people.  In the same year, humans killed about 100 million sharks….In 1970, only 10% of Americans had a college degree….Here is Philippines’ President Duterte commenting on the increasing number of rapes:  “As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape” ….The Danish company Legos makes 100 million tiny plastic bricks every day.  It is now trying to find a way to make its toys plastic-free….The Trump administration, caving to corporate pressure from formula “milk” producers, is trying to scuttle a World Health Assembly initiative aimed at encouraging breastfeeding….Meanwhile, public health officials are alarmed at increasing obesity in America.  What does the Trump administration do?  It caves to corporate food industry pressure and is proposing new rules that would limit warning labels on food products….The Red Delicious apple (looks pretty, tastes like cardboard), has finally been deposed as the nation’s favorite apple.  The new favorite is Gala.  Also gaining favor according to a U.S. Apple Association survey is Granny Smith, Fuji, and Honey Crisp….Only 13% of Californian homeowners (and 10% of commercial businesses) have earthquake insurance….Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free sanitary products to students.  The problem was that many girls were staying home from school during their period because they could not afford to buy these products….The majority of Democrats in the Oregon House are female….More than 350,000 people have been killed since 2011 in the Syrian conflict.   

 

Letter of the Month

To the editor Los Angeles Times, Sept. 2:

            There’s an old saying about baloney: You can slice it, dice it, saute it, boil it or broil it, but it’s still baloney. That’s my take on James Kirchick’s piece on the Republican party “in exile.”  Republicans are not in exile. Their leaders and rank and file support President Trump.

            Kirchick’s remark that the “#Resistance” labors under the delusion that “we are living under a 20th century style despotism” is also ludicrous. Trump’s attacks on racial minorities, his dog whistles and policies against immigrants and refugees, and his relentless attacks on the press are more than an echo of past dictators. With Trump, make no mistake about it, we are careening toward fascism.

            Kirchick rightfully invokes the late Sen. John McCain’s personal sacrifice and courage. But Republicans like him are few. Most cower in fear that Trump will destroy them if they speak out. Their docility and cowardice harms us all.

Mark Day, Vista, Calif.

In the News Late Spring 2018

Turmoil in the Newpaper Business     At the Los Angeles Times, bitter complaints against its owner (Tronc) led to the sale of the LAT to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.  Conflict intensified when the New York Times ran major stories on April 7, 12, and 22 about troubles at the Denver Post.  The editorial board of the Denver Post, sick of all the firings in the newsroom, lambasted their own Wall Street hedge fund owner, Alden Global Capital which they called “vulture capitalists.”  As people turn more and more to electronic media, venture capitalists have been gobbling up newspapers at bargain prices and then slashing their budgets to squeeze out as much profit as possible.

Alden is also the majority owner of Digital First Media which in turn is the owner of eleven Southern California newspapers including guess what, the Orange County Register.  Alden and Digital First are raking in profits by squeezing the life out of newspapers. Frank Pine, the Executive Editor of the OCR joined the fight with an unusual front page editorial about the risk to democracy as newspapers are forced into decline.  Many have criticized the OCR for not keeping up with demographics in Orange County where Democrats and Independents now outnumber Republican conservatives (and libertarians are way down the list).  Meanwhile, the OCR has moderated its tone, particularly in the news division.  But according to Mr. Pine, the OCR is getting bombarded with criticism not from the left but from right wingers who complain bitterly whenever the OCR runs anything which is not ultra-conservative.  They now have a new opinion editor, Scott Kaufman,  who replaced Brian Calle.

So what is going on?  Are liberals and progressives shy about expressing opinions, unwilling to speak out?  When was the last time you wrote a LTE?  Sure, it is unlikely to get published but they carefully count what people are writing about and you can be certain that this influences what gets covered and with what slant.  Sharpen your pencils and write in before there are no newspapers left. Write to letters@ocregister.comletters@latimes.comletters@sanclementetimes.comletters@nytimes.com

How Would San Clemente Spend $24 Million?  Guess what, there is a bill in Congress (HR 3929) which would award San Clemente over $24 million to spend as it sees fit.  It is called the Stranded Nuclear Waste Accountability Act of 2017 sponsored by Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) whose town of Haadam, CT was devastated when Connecticut Yankee NPP was decommissioned. There are 12 such stranded nuclear waste sites in the country, and guess what city has more nuclear waste than any in the entire country?  We get the prize.  San Clemente, CA has by far the most nuclear waste (1773 tons of uranium and plutonium, 4 times as much as Connecticut Yankee).  If you think that the deadly radioactive waste is somewhere else, far off in another county, think again.  The NRC specifies San Clemente as the home of the new nuclear waste dump.  We are the nearest town (1.6 miles away), we share the same zip code, and we share nuclear waste which has the potential to become 100 Chernobyls.  HR 3929 is an attempt to mitigate all the harmful effects of having to live near a nuclear waste dump.

Unfortunately, the bill is not going anywhere.  When they asked Darrell Issa to co-sponsor it, he said NO, just like he said NO to the petition to get funding for the National Academy of Sciences study of cancer streaks in the 31 mile radius around San Onofre.  The city of San Clemente is aware of HR 3929 and will probably discuss whether to support it at the next city council meeting.  If such a bill is dead until the next session of Congress, discussion of it might generate some public awareness that we have a serious problem here.  Did anyone notice that the mayor’s “State of the City” address? Mayor Brown did not even mention radioactive waste as an issue.  No wonder there is so much apathy (and lack of awareness). Time to make a little noise?

The Rich and Greedy  Immense prosperity is returning to America (but only if you focus on the rich).  CBS CEO Leslie Moonves now gets $69.6 million a year in compensation. And look what is happening at Amazon:  The CEO Jeff Bezos is the world’s riches man but his employees median pay is $28,446.  Joseph Zubretsky, CEO of Molina Healthcare makes 450 times more than the median income of workers in his healthcare insurance company.  Wells Fargo, caught after opening 3.5 fraudulent accounts, has agreed to pay $480 million back to shareholders (but only $12.5 million back to harmed customers).  So what did the bank also do?  It awarded CEO Tim Sloan  a 36% raise.  The CEO of Uline (a package supply company) is so rich that he gave $20 million to support hard-line right wing candidates. How do the rich conceal their wealth and hide what they are doing?  They take lessons from Trump and his relatives who have been doing this for decades.  Ask his pal Sean Hannity who shares Trump’s sleazy lawyer Michael Cohen.  Over the last decade,  Hannity has secretly built a multimillion dollar real estate empire in four states by specializing in renting to low-income tenants. Then he uses them to obtain mortgages insured by the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development essentially exploiting taxpayer money to help build his wealth.  He conceals his activities through anonymous shell corporations registered to the address of Henssler Financial.      Here is another good one:  Stephen Schwarzman, Wall Street billionaire and big supporter of Donald Trump, offered to donate $25 million to Abington High School in PA.  But Mr. Schwarzman wanted gratitude (remind you of anyone else?) in which the school had to be renamed after him. He wanted prominent portraits of himself featured in the school and wanted spaces named after his brothers.  He wanted to approve the construction contractors, etc.  The school board agreed to the deal in secret, but 1,500 residents were outraged and signed a petition opposing it. Columnist David Brooks asked if the school board was brazen, sneaky, stupid or all three?  “What else is for sale” he asked.  

Privacy for Sale  Remember those FB friends you deleted?  FB remembers every click you ever did.  Reporter Brian Chen opened his own file and found that FB had sold all his personal and contact information to 500 advertisers.  Meanwhile, the FB scandal which may have thrown the election to Trump compromised the privacy of 87 million users. What else is Mark Zuckerberg up to?  In Illinois, FB is working behind the scenes to block a strong privacy law.  Zuckerberg does not want the state to require consent when FB wants to use facial recognition to track you and sell your privacy.  Here is another hi-tech attack on privacy:  if you have done a DNA ancestry search, your genetic makeup is for sale.  That’s how they found the Golden State Killer.  Companies can search DNA databases, discover all your relatives and ancestors, and sell the information to anyone interested.  Like insurance companies, for example, who might screen your genes and use the information to charge you more or deny coverage all together.  Big brother is watching you. 

The Psychology of Lie Acceptance  Here is a scary statistic:  89% of Republicans think highly of Donald Trump.  Why isn’t the Party of Trump (formerly the Republican Party) bothered by his behavior and why are they now making the defense of Trump the center piece of Republican strategy?  Are his lies so frequent and so blatant that they are now normative and acceptable?  Do Republicans actually think that Trump lies are truth, or is there something else going on?  A London psychology professor is busy conducting research on how people tolerate lies.  It is not so much that people deny the lies, but they are unwilling to condemn lies as long as they can convince themselves that they might have been true in which case falsehoods are not considered unethical.  Now that the idea of fake news and alternative facts has inspired the gullible, people of different political leanings use different standards to make moral judgments.  By using a little “truthiness,” spin doctors and demagogues can lower ethical standards and persuade people to accept lies.  So lies that are outrageous to you are ho-hum to Trump supporters. 

Women and Teachers on the March  Many are now thinking that the emergence of women power (together with youth power) may save American democracy.  Massive teacher strikes in Arizona, Colorado, and other states are catching on like wildfire.  Teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky have done the same. They are creating a serious challenge to Republican lawmakers who like to slash funding for education.  In Arizona, a stay at home mom Melinda Merkel started a movement called Save Our Schools.  She collected 100,000 signatures and forced the reluctant governor to accept a 20% pay hike.  This lead to a NYT headline: Year of the Women.   More recently, the toxic work environment of the stogy and chauvinist Nike Corporation led women in Beaverton, Oregon to the forced outing of six top Nike executives.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/28/business/nike-women.html  And here at home we hail the persistence of Ellen Montanari (a speaker at a previous SOCP meeting) whose protests in front of Issa’s office for months helped persuade him to quit.    

Christian Soldiers on the March  Remember when Republican evangelicals trumpeted “family values?”  Today they openly embrace the moral failings of Donald Trump and his alliances with crooks and porn stars .  Amy Sullivan says that most white evangelicals today would vote against Jesus Christ if he were a Democrat.  Read on, and see a photo of Donald Trump praying.

Fascism Advances, America Declines  It was shocking to learn that a YouGov survey of 6,000 Europeans in seven countries discovered that only half of young people there believe that democracy is the best form of government.  Apparently democracy (especially in America) is easily gamed. For some European counties, Donald Trump’s election has translated into turning democracy from being an ideal into being the enemy.  Read “How Democracy Became the Enemy.”    In another Op-Ed, Christopher Preble writes “Adapting to American Decline

And Madelein Albright has a new book out, Fascism: A Warning.”  For the NYT, she writes “Fascism on the March.”    Is American democracy about to crumble?

Ten Characteristics of a Dictator  Bill Mayer made a sick joke by asking how many of the following characteristics of dictators apply lyin’ Don:    1. Very narcissistic – likes to put his own name on buildings;  2. appoints family members to official government positions; 3. holds scary rallies; 4. hates the press and considers the press as enemies of the people; 5. likes to hold military parades; 6. uses his office for personal financial gain; 7. loves other dictators; 8. asserts that minorities are the cause of the country’s problems; 9. lies freely;  10. likes to wear military uniforms.  Looks like the president gets a grade of A- (90 percent correct).  But since he is a draft dodger we can be relieved that he will never get a perfect score of 100.

Reconciliation  A woman in Georgia discovered that her relatives years ago were part of a mob that lynched four black people.  Recently she linked up with and formed an unlikely friendship with a black woman whose ancestors were among those lynched. 

The News in Brief  Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the largest owner of TV stations in the country, was caught ordering news anchors at its TV stations to support Trump claims that other media outlets offer only fake news that cannot be trusted.  Many anchors protested this “forced read” and the heavy hand of Sinclair’s right wing agenda (itself fake news) while Sinclair seeks to curry favor with Trump to expand its TV holdings….One would think that the Consumer Protection Bureau would champion consumer protection,  right?  Unfortunately it is run by Mick Mulvaney, billionaire crony appointed by Trump who now heads of the Office of Management and Budget.  He is championing SB 2155 which claims to enhance consumer protection but in fact harms consumers and helps corporations.  Over 85 consumer advocacy groups are protesting but so far to no avail as it passed the Senate.  Another example of Trump filling the swamp with zillionaires whose job is to dismantle the department they are supposed to defend (EPA, State, Education, you name it) White House-backed bill purports to strengthen consumer protection. It does the opposite.

….Scott Pruitt, a Trump favorite but complete embarrassment to the country, has proposed that restrictions should be placed on scientific research used to develop environmental policy….Did you know that Nancy and Ronald Reagan watched 363 movies at Camp David?  His favorite:  “Top Gun.”

Letter of the Month

To the Editor NYT:

Your April 11 editorial “The Law Is Coming, Mr. Trump” was brilliant. The problem is nobody cares. Nobody cares how he does business and the kinds of people he surrounds himself with. Nobody cares about his prevarications, his hypocrisy, his misogyny, his illiteracy, his rants and, most of all, his lack of a moral compass.

Nobody cares. Not Congress, not the evangelicals who are eager to give him all the mulligans he needs, and certainly not his 40 percent base.

The results of the Mueller investigation won’t matter. President Trump will never be impeached, and all of his minions currently under investigation will be pardoned.

The only way to contain Mr. Trump until 2020 is to elect a veto-proof Democratic Congress in 2018. Until we can find a new set of leaders equipped with a backbone and a conscience who understand and support the word “compromise,” “fake” government will continue.

 William M. Doyle, Lakewood, NJ

 


In the News Spring 2018

Repeal the Second Amendment  Many are tired of hearing people say “I support the 2nd Amendment, however….”  Former supreme court judge says it is a relic of the 18th century and we should just get rid of it entirely.  An Op-Ed in the LAT makes the same case.

The Facebook Betrayal  Michael Hiltzik, columnist for the LAT worried when he noticed how Zuckerberg developed a two-class stock structure with the purpose of cementing his power over the future of Facebook.  “You better hope he does everything right, because if he doesn’t he’ll be harder to get rid of than tuberculosis,” Hiltzik quipped.  Now we see what Zuckerberg has been up to (in secret).  Facebook with its 2.2 billion users now joins the Russians, Kushner, Cambridge Analytics, and the FBI in efforts to help the Republican throw the 2016 election. Some years ago,  Mark Zuckerberg was asked why people willingly gave up so much personal information.  “I don’t know why,” he said.  “They trust me.  Dumb….”    FB has been criticized for many years for data mining of personal information and making it difficult for users to manage privacy options.  In 2010, Zuckerberg admitted that FB needed better privacy controls but he never did anything about it.  He is now making the same kinds of statements.  Better take your picture off FB because they use facial recognition technology and everything about you starting with your face may be for sale.  If you want to delete FB (it is hard to do). check this out.   If you want to protect yourself from data harvesters, read this.

Big Brother is Watching You  Remember when politicians railed against the dangers of Communism?  Thought control is already standard operating procedure in Russian and China, and Russia now successfully uses thought manipulation (with the cooperation of Donald Trump)  to manipulate elections in other countries. The Communist Party of China employs and army of fake internet commenters who spew out 448 million comments per year aimed at cheering on the government and redirecting attention to distract the public from issues the government doesn’t want them to talk (or think) about. A Georgetown professor writes about high-tech totalitarianism and what it is like to live in a surveillance state.  Is this already happening here?  Have we become a country where real news is dismissed as fake news, and fake news (like FOX) gets promoted as real news? 

The Republican Guide to Presidential Etiquette  Our February In the News column featured the official list of the 425 people and organizations that Trump has insulted.  Here is another NYT list with about 50 examples of presidential behavior that are acceptable (even admired) by Republicans.  Examples:  Trump tells an average of 5 lies per day (over 2,000 so far).  Watches 4-8 hours a day of cable TV and makes policy decisions based on what he hears on FOX.  Boasts that he has signed more legislation than any other first-year president when in fact he has signed the least.  Praises Norway for buying fighter airplanes that Trump has seen in video games (there are no such planes).  Boasts to his rich friends that his new tax bill will make them all even richer.  Says it is “disgusting” that reporters can write whatever they want and suggests that reporters who do this should be investigated.  Spends about a third of his time at his golf course properties (at tax payer expense).  Brags that there were no airline crashes last year because he was in office.  Read the rest here.

The Republicans Fight Back  Several decades ago the Republicans realized that their future was bleak unless they could somehow manipulate the popular vote.  Much effort went into gerrymandering, and it worked.  Donald Trump lost the popular vote by a wide margin but was able to win the gerrymandered electoral vote.  In spite of this advantage, the prospects for the Donald Trump party continue to look bleak. Look for more efforts at voter suppression to help them out.  The subtitle of this piece in the LAT is Republicans have doubled down on the tactics of voter suppression.”   

Beauty Contest in Washington  Ever thought you would see the day when people reminisce about the good old days under Richard Nixon?  The antics in our capitol have inspired a vigorous debate by Gail Collins who has written three pieces on Who Is the Best and Who is the Worst.  For example, there is some good news for James Buchanan!  Move over, you are no longer at the bottom of the worst president ever list!   And who is worse, Trump or his lawyers?   And what about the current Trump cabinet?   Gail Collins rates the entire swamp.  Read who is the winner.

The Gloves Come Off at the NYT  The news division of the NYT continues to mute its headlines but the editorial division doesn’t mince words.  A couple recent examples:  In one entitled “Is Mr. Trump Nuts?”  The editors debate the findings of psychiatrists who concluded that Trump has mental illness issues which are a “grave and immediate danger to the safety of America and the world.”    Another editorial is about the total romp that lobbyists are now enjoying in Washington.  Lobbyists stream in and out of the White House in secrecy.  Favors and deals abound.  A non-partisan watchdog group documents 60 lobbying groups, foreign governments, and corporations that make the stench worse than ever.  All this after Trump stated during the campaign, “I’m going to fight for every person this country who believes government should serve the people – not the donors and special interests!”  Is this lie # 2001?

Is Trump Honest or Dishonest?  Did Donald Trump trick the American voters?  Not so, says Frank Bruni who insists that Trump is the most honest president in recent times because he makes no effort to hide his ugly side.  Everyone knows that he is a totally unprincipled liar, bigot, and racist.  He is vengeful, has an explosive temper, ignores facts, reads very little and gets his information from television. He worships money, wallows in vanity, enjoys being a con artist, and cavorts with prostitutes.  He didn’t trick anyone because this was all common knowledge and Americans elected him anyhow.  The real story is what this tells us about America.  See this Op-Ed with a cartoon of Trump hiding behind four Joker cards:

 Is Orange County Turning Blue?  Not so fast, says the LAT headline: “OC’s Conservative Side Is Alive and Well.” 

Hate Groups Increasing  According to the Orange County Register, there are 38 extremist hate groups in Southern California.    They are becoming significantly more open and brazen, often flying high-visibility banners across freeways. Most banners are anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and white supremist.  For example, “Americans are white, the rest must go,” “Blood and soil” (an old Nazi slogan), and “Jews Did 9/11.”

 The Voices of Young People

Madison Leal:  “The children will become leaders as the leaders have become children.”

Sara Chadwick:   “We may be young but our voices are louder than you can imagine.”

Lina Crisostomo:   “I blame the government for what happened and also the people that are sending prayers and condolences but aren’t doing anything.  It’s just heart-breaking to know that the people representing you are failing you.”

David Hogg:  “The fact that some of the students are showing more maturity and political action than many of our elected officials is a testament to how disgusting and broken our political system is right now in America.  Every day, politics is used to suppress you.  I have always felt this way.  Now I have the platform to speak out.”

Florence Yared:   “You adults have failed us by not creating a safer place for your children to go to school.  So we, the next generation, will not fail our own kids.  We will make this change happen. If not today, then tomorrow.  Take it from us. You created a mess for us, but we will make this world safer for our children.”

Aly Sheehy:   “The children you pissed off will not forget this in the voting booth.  Don’t doubt the power of the younger generation because we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Jaclyn Corin:   “In the period of one month, we have shaken up the world.  But I feel like the adults keep pressing the snooze button.  At some point they’re going to have to wake up.”

Darct Schleifstein:   We are Generation Z, the generation after the millennials.  We outnumber them by nearly one million….We will flex our muscles at the ballot box, too.”

Best Letter to the Editor of the Month

To the Editor, NYT:  What can you say about the state of our country when an adult film star sounds more believable and more intelligent, and is more sympathetic, than the president of the United States”  Judith Katz, New York

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Seeking a lead attorney to represent client involved in an ongoing Federal investigation.  Must be familiar with laws and procedures of discovery, executive privilege, international finance, real estate, election law and the Logan Act.  Working knowledge of social media (especially Twitter) a plus as is a better than average knowledge of the adult film industry and a collection of playboy magazines.

Best Book  Remember Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame?  He has a new book out The Doomsday Machine which gives a terrifying account of the thinking of military planners whose job it is to come up with scenarios for the world’s final war.  It is a little like Star Warriors written a few decades ago by think tank strategists who considered blowing up the moon or changing the earth obit to put our enemies in a polar climate.  Ellsberg’s new book is actually an extension of the more famous one written by Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War.  He originated the idea of the Doomsday Machine whose appeal was that it was quick, simple, cheap, and effective.  The United States would assemble an enormous H-Bomb and bury it under a place like New York City.  When the temperature in NYC reached 100,000,000 degrees (a nuclear attack), the temperature sensor would trigger the bomb which would kill all life in the northern hemisphere in short course.  (It might take a few months to kill all life in the southern hemisphere.)  Because of this grand theory of mutual destruction, no one would ever launch an attack.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/books/review/daniel-ellsberg-the-doomsday-machine.html  Are you reassured?

The News in Brief  In the 2014 midterms, half of people over 60 voted but only one of six aged 18-29 voted….Wall Street bonuses are now the highest since 2006.  The average bonus is $184,220….The Wells Fargo board give CEO Tim Sloan a 35% pay raise last year in spite of the criminal activity of the bank….Disney shareholders opposed the executive pay plan which would award CEO Robert Iger with $36.3 million and more in 2018.  The board ignored the shareholders and gave it to him anyhow….Donald Trump saw millionaire Larry Kudlow on TV and impulsively appointed him as his new chief economic adviser.  The NYT headline called Kudlow the “Evangelist of Supply-Side Economics.”  Translation:  use the government to make the rich even richer and argue that this is smart because eventually other people might benefit….Guess who loves to hunt and kill big game in Africa?  Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric Trump.  Have you seen the photos of them grinning next to a crocodile hanging from a tree, holding a dead cheetah, and posing with a knife in one hand with the tail of an elephant in the other?  And guess why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just overturned the ban on trophy hunting?  The NRA and the Safari Club have long lobbied to promote big game hunting and now they have a friend in the White House….Just after a string of successful missile launches by North Korea, the U.S. quietly announced yet another failure in its missile interceptor testing.  Another SM-3 Block IIA interceptor (cost:  $33 million each) failed last June in spite of the fact that they knew well in advance the exact speed, distance, altitude, location, and size of the dummy warhead.  Meantime, back in Washington, the president mocks North Korea, ridicules its leaders with insults, and the DOD says with a straight face that we can count on missile defense….There are 310 million firearms in the hands of civilians, one for every adult and child.  The consequence? Americans are 25 times more likely to be murdered with a gun compared to people living in other developed countries.  If you want to study gun laws in different states, or want to know which politicians got how much from the NRA, visit this website.  70 to 80 percent of American antibiotics go to livestock.  It is normal practice to give cattle antibiotics every day until they are slaughtered.  A Pew Research Center poll found that 58% of Republicans believe that colleges have a negative effect on the country….The Trump administration is pushing a rollback of consumer protections against the airline industry.  Airlines are pressing to avoid disclosing such things as whether their fares include taxes and fees, how many suitcases they lose or damage, how passengers can get compensated for late, overbooked, or cancelled flights, etc.  

In the News February 2018

The Fake World of Social Media: Bots vs People.   Is social media like Facebook and Twitter a force for good or an evil force intended to manipulate people?  The NYT launched a nearly year-long investigation into the phony world of buying and selling fake people through social media.  A company called Denumi sells bots (fake social media followers) so the Times bought 25,000 fake followers for $225 and played with them.  Turns out there are millions of bots (fake people) used by businesses, politicians, and anyone trying to influence everything from political candidates to perceptions about shampoo.  Those who have studied the use of bots in social media to influence attitudes and opinions say that social media is rotten with fraud and fakery  Read More about that here.  Of course the same thing can be done less efficiently as they do in China with real people.  There the government employs an army of fake commenters who generate an estimated 448 million comments in the media aimed at distracting the public and redirecting attention from sensitive issues.  Russia does the same thing as it demonstrated how easy it is to manipulate public opinion in America.  And Trump also does the same thing using his cabinet members and the Republicans in Congress to spread falsehoods.
 
Newspapers in the News.  The LATimes now has a supplement called Times OC, a short weekly section which is mostly fluff news about Orange County.  Editor is John Canalis: john.canalis@latimes.com.  Meanwhile back in the big city the LAT has voted to unionize for the first time in its 136 year history.  Most other major newspapers in the country unionized long ago.  But the big shake-up is that the publisher and CEO of the LAT Ross Levinsohn was forced to take a leave of absence amid accusations of sexual harassment.  And now the LAT gets a new editor, Jim Kirk, previously editor of the Chicago Sun-Times.  He replaced Lewis D’Vorkin who was editor for only a few months of news room turmoil.  He was called the Prince of Darkness amid accusations that he was setting up a shadow newsroom to blur the lines between news and advertising in order to boost revenue.  His former job was a product officer at Forbes and he will now be moved to a position in the parent company, Tronc.  And the OCR continues to retrench with an announcement that a significant number of staff members will be laid off in coming weeks.  This is bad news for the OCR which has already slashed its coverage (and staff) and now relies heavily on generic news that could go in any of its newspapers anytime regardless of location.  The good news at the OCR is that the news division now sometimes reprints stories from the NYT, AP, and Washington Post.  Even the editorial page is lightening up and occasionally presents counterpoint to what used to be only right wing mantra.
 
How Does San Clemenete Spend its Edison Money?   In recognition of the danger that San Onofre presents to nearby communities,  Edison was forced to pay San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point, and Oceanside significant sums to help the towns prepare for radiation emergencies after Edison leaves and the cities are on their own. Last year, San Clemente received 193,000 but ended up returning $30 unspent.  The program runs two more years but San Clemente will get less next year because it failed to spend everything last year.   A Public Records Act was needed to find out details on how the rest was spent and it is unclear if the money was spent wisely or used as a slush fund for other town priorities.  True, there is need for training now that Edison is gradually leaving the scene.  Edison has asked for (and received) many exemptions from the NRC (such as no fire department, fewer guards on security, and no off-site radiation monitoring) so the future burdens of accidents will fall on local towns.  But why does Edison money go to managers of recreation and golf courses, for example?  What the town should be investing in is radiation monitoring.  There is no off-site monitoring which is real time and publicly available. When the radioactive fallout comes, there is no way to know how much, where, and which radionuclides.  Should we believe the authorities when an accident happens?  In all major radiation catastrophes in the past, authorities have lied to the public about radiation levels and it is safe to assume they will do the same thing here.
 
Government by the Rich.  Trump claims to be interested in American workers but when it comes to running the government he leans heavily on Wall Street billionaires, hence the term “Government Sachs.” Advisors coming from Goldman Sachs include Steven Mnuchin (Treasury), Gary Cohn (National Economics Council), Dina Powell (National Security) and even Steve Bannon.  But Goldman Sachs has fallen on hard times.  Co-President David Solomon likes to collect wine and has 1,000 bottles stored in his Manhattan residence.  Recently some were stolen including a single bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti which he bought for $133,650.  How nice to be able to spend $100,00 on a bottle of wine but what a pity when the rich have to suffer losing their wine bottles.  Speaking of billionaires, Betsy DeVos has a fleet 16 private airplanes including: 1 Boeing Business Jet, 5 Gulfstream G550s, 1 Gulfstream G450, 2 Bombardier Challenger 350s, 3 Cessna Citation CJ4s, and 4 helicopters.  She is Secretary of Education in spite of the fact that she never attended a public school in her life (she is using her position to advance the interests of private and charter schools).  If you haven’t heard of her, she is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater USA. The Trump insiders have truly amazing stories.
 
Is Trump a Country Club Republican?  Trump has spent more than a third of his Presidency at his private residences including his country club golf courses.  Does this reveal his true values?  Michael Goldfarb says “Donald Trump is a man of his class- the nouveau riche, country club class. Louder and more obnoxious….”  Read more.
 
Is Trump a Racist?  Read Charles Blow: “Trump is a Racist. Period.”   If you want a list of his racist statements, read David Leonhardt: “A Definitive List of Donald Trump’s Racist Statements.”  
 
Who Gains from the New Tax Laws?  Smart marketing by the Trump administration boasts about how the new tax laws are a windfall for the average worker. They don’t mention that half of the 11,000 lobbyists in Washington worked vigorously to get deals representing their clients (not you). Who benefited?  Look at the one-time $1000 bonuses workers are getting at Walmart and Bank of America!  The truth is that corporations are raking in huge windfall profits and doling out peanuts.  BOA will rake in an additional $2.7 billion this year and will dole out a mere $145 million to its employees.  Apple will rake in an additional $40 billion and dole out $300 million to employees.  Hold your nose and read on. 
 
Why Do Some People Love Trump?  Speaking of holding your nose, many agree that he is disgusting and dishonest but they support him anyway because they love his policies, especially those that benefit them personally (never mind if the rest of the country suffers).  Usually they talk about how they are benefiting from the stock market, and usually they don’t like to talk about some of the other things like racism, sexism, anti-environment, anti-democracy, anti-education, anti-poor people, anti-science, anti-foreigner, the list is long.  But are we talking about Trump values or are these now the values of the Republican Party?  Many were shocked in the Alabama election when the die-hard Republican evangelicals were enthusiastic in their support for a racist pedophile liar who abused women.  It is worth taking a look at the selective vision of people who love Trump and don’t care about his warts.  On January 18 the NYT devoted an entire page to people who wanted to explain their thinking and values.
 
The Trump Insult List.  On Jan. 29, the NYT devoted 2 full pages to 425 people and organizations insulted by Trump. For personal abusive insults, Hillary Clinton was the winner followed by guess what  former president.  For organizations, the media came in first place for insults followed by the Democrats, New York Times, and CNN.  Check to see if you made the list
Evolution Washington Style.  Did you know that Dinosaurs roamed Washington and Maryland 100 million years ago?  Footprints from the Cretaceous era were recently discovered under the grounds of NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center not far north of the nation’s capital.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/science/dinosaurs-footprints-nasa.html  Turns out that Washington D.C. was once a swamp.  Still is a swamp according to many. But Donald Trump is working hard to carry out at least one of his campaign promises: drain the swamp.  He has done an excellent job.  Gone are Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Omarosa Newman, Dina Powell, Michael Flynn, Tom Price, Sebastian Gorka, Anthony Scaramucci, Michael Short, Angella Reid, and of course ethics director Walter Shaub.  Speaking of purging the system,  the Guggenheim Museum offered to lend the president a solid gold toilet.  They even offered to hook it up and make it flush.  Trump refused
 
Real Evolution  Scientists previously thought that homo sapiens first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago and started to migrate out about 50,000 years ago.  New fossil remains discovered in Israel were dated at 180,000 years so the history of the human race has to be revised.  And in Morocco, fossil remains discovered last June revealed modern looking humans about 350,000 years old. We are much older than anyone thought!    On the bad side,  some scientists predict that the human race has only about 100 years to live.   But don’t worry, researchers in China have successfully cloned monkeys so presumably we can someday clone humans from cells in a petri dish.  
 
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